Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Paw of Approval

Traditionally, one should not be caught away from your house without a knife and a way to make fire somewhere on your person.

Following this rule has generally made life easier for me -- in all senses of the phrase -- but I have come to the conclusion that one should add "and a light" to this axiom.

There are those who would argue that having a way to make fire with you pretty much takes care of the light situation, but in the Century of the Fruitbat* present time, there are more situations where a flaming torch simply makes the situation worse, than there are where a flaming torch helps.

So. Some kind of flashlight is advisable.

For last year or so, I've been dinking around with a couple of portable light sources which have actually managed to impress me.

The first is the Photon Micro-light II with the white LED. This handy little darlin' clips onto your keychain slick as a whistle, is smaller than a quarter, and is bright enough to light a dark hallway for a decent distance.

Once it's on your key-chain, it pretty much goes unnoticed until such time as you need it, and you'd be surprised what kind of needs you can come up with. My brother and I have used Photon II's to signal each other across a mall parking lot, and I've locked mine in the 'ON' position, looped some fishing thread through the key-chain hole, and lowered it behind counters and into pipes looking for things.

The battery has been good for ~ a year, and is replaceable. At about $16.00 these things are a bargain.

While the microlight is a jolly decent bit of kit, there are times when one simply must have a bigger flashlight than the little Photon, and in this we are fortunate in that there is simply an un-ending parade of miniature lights to choose from.

The flashlights powered by lithium batteries are the current darlings of the lighting world, and for good reason: lithium batteries have a shelf-life of ten years or so, and the lights they power put out an amazing amount of light.

They do have a couple of minor drawbacks, though. While my Surefire 6P puts the sun to shame, when Surefire says that the batteries are good for about 60 minutes, they aren't kidding. That little Surefire runs like a top for the first 60 total minutes; at 60 minutes and thirty seconds the beam starts to get dim, and at 61 total minutes the batteries are dead and the light is out.

Also, running it for any extended period -- say more than 30 seconds -- and it gets HOT. One minute of constant 'on' gets you raise-a-blister temperatures.

Great for back-up to a regular flashlight, and great for searching rooms, but maybe not so good for every-day utility.

My little sister, bless her heart, gave me an iNova X5, as a present.

Folks, this little light is neater than kitten toes. It is powered with the same two lithium battery types that run my Surefire, but with five high-output white-light LED bulbs, the X5 is rated for 20 hours of total use, rather then the one hour total of the Surefire, and the X5 hasn't ever gotten warm enough to notice since I started using it.

It's been dropped in a swimming pool, dropped off of a house, and used in yawara drills without a whimper.

I wouldn't give up my Surefire for it -- the beam isn't anywhere as concentrated as the beam of the 6P, and the beam doesn't seem to have the same kind of range and distance as the 6P, but it's put-it-in-your-pocket-and-forget-about-it small, tough, and pretty much beats my old Mag-Light in every category except skull-thumping ability.

You may find something that suits you better -- and if you do, you should stick with it -- but if you're looking for compact, powerful little lights, you might cast an eye towards these two, they won't do you wrong.

LawDog

*Obscure Terry Pratchett reference. Sorry about that.

21 comments:

Vic303 said...

Oh no...Poor Lawdog...you've been bitten by the flashaholic bug! Go to www.candlepowerforums.com to see what's really going on in the world of flashlights! While there, look for a light, called the Fenix L1P. You'd like it. Promise! It's my EDC light, and I have a LRI Photon II, like you...and 2 6P's, and a Maxfire, and a Huntlight FT02x on order...and a Nuwai Alx-233C......oh and don't forget the utility of a headlamp!

George said...

Man ... Lawdog ... I didn't know you were a Discworld fan as well. You know ... there are some women out there who should get a move onto Texas. I imagine men like you are in short supply.

Good luck fighting them off.

Oh ... and the light stick stuff was cool, too.

The Raving Prophet said...

No need to apologize about the Pratchett reference.

Heck, just toss a few flashlights in the Luggage.

PubliusCicero said...

A cop who makes Terry Pratchett references - that's just awesome.

Why aren't you running for President again?

Roughedge said...

I carry an X5 daily, and have for about 8 months now. I'm still on my first set of batteries, even after using it 3 to 6 times a week.

I recently found my Gerber Infinity Ultra Task Light. Let me tell ya, for a little bitty light, it's pretty slick. The 100 hour run time on one AA battery is damned impressive.

I'm all about battery life, cause face it, who carries spare batteries in their pocket?

Anonymous said...

Next time Pratchett's in your neighborhood, get him to sign your hat. My son, away for a semester in NZ, knows what I mean.(He's always checking on what you've been up to, and spotted something I wrote a few weeks ago. His email to me was mostly polite.) So you've got readers in Colorado and New Zealand, as well as the Texas' crew. And the next Pratchett book is out in October, in case you're asking. Be well! OldeForce

Grunt said...

LD try the Inova T3 85 Lumens but only a 2 hour run time. Or try the LED Lenser #LL7736 V² Tactical Power Chip Torch from Coast Cutlery. It uses 3 AAA batteries and rivals a surefire in the brightness department.

cleanhead said...

The surefire gets so hot maybe it qualifies as the way to make a fire as well as a flashlight...

Anonymous said...

My personal preference is an led flashlight that uses AAA batteries. My recommmendation is a light that uses standard batteries that can be picked up anywhere. After Rita, I realized the rechargable type are useless when the electricity is gone.

Tom said...

You probably meant "yawara"? That's nifty!

Anonymous said...

Another good,small, but bright light that lasts a very long time is the Streamlight TL-3 LED. The only draw back is it takes three CR123 batteries, and they are expensive except at Academy, where they are 2 for five dollars. Mine has been dropped numerous times on concrete, just keeps on going. It uses the very bright luxeon (sic?) LED. Best wishes, Les

Anonymous said...

Fenix make good lights, yes they do.

i've carried a Fenix L2T every day for the last couple months, and won't be caught without it unless there's some reason for me to not wear my pants either. it's about the size of a two-AA mini-maglite, except a bit narrower (because the head of it doesn't bulge out like the maglite's) and possibly a bit longer. judging by the picture of that inova, my fenix is somewhat longer but slimmer.

it's built at least as tough as the maglites are, except with a better surface finish, plus giving better light for a longer time off the same commonly available AA batteries, and it actually likes rechargeable NiMH AA's better than alkalines.

it's not "self-defense bright", though; it couldn't blind someone unless maybe their eyes were already fully dark-adapted and you happened to hit them with the high brightness level at close range. i won't bet on that, i use it for just an everyday flashlight and save other things for self-defense.

i don't know what yarawa practice involves, but i'd be surprised if this little stick o' solid aluminum would suffer from it at all.

i got it because i was disappointed in my mini-maglite; i never liked how its incandescent bulb put out such a fuzzy, patterned light picture. the LED in the Fenix gives a smooth, even light that doesn't annoy me as much. it is slightly tinted toward the purple, but for simple illumination needs that doesn't matter.

oh, and it came with a great nylon-webbing belt holster that seems as tough as the light itself. and a detachable lanyard, for those who like such. and spare o-rings for the bits that unscrew.

BlueMntCeltic said...

As long as people are getting in a plug for their personal favorites....the Surefire line of L1, E1...et al. stay cool and then there are the Browning Blackice line of LED's and Xenon lights, head lamps et al. I've been using them for three or four years with great success. They have one which cycles through Red, Blue (for tracking blood at night, particularly on snow), white (these first three are paired LED's in said colors,and then a Xenon. I also carry one of their 5 lamp LED head lamps...my personal favorite for a light while riding my bike home in the dark....runs on AAA, their others run on the Li batteries.

Jeff the Baptist said...

Cheaper alternatives to the Photon are out there. It is a good product, but you can buy generic competitors that are as good and cheaper (~$5).

Those hand-cranked jobs are really getting popular as well. I find that the maglite in my toolkit has an awful tendency to have dead batteries whenever I really need it. A hand cranked unit gets around that very well and with 3 LEDs they're plenty bright for most jobs.

Mattexian said...

Like Mr Anon at 8:42, after H'cane Rita, flashlghts were worth more than gold and batteries for them were platinum. Something I've found good is a LED conversion kit for MiniMaglites and regular Maglites. They're drop-in replacements for the bulb and reflector. You lose the focusing ability of a MiniMag, but the battery life is multiplied several times, and if they do die, they're a common AA size, not some wierd watch battery.

shooter said...

My wife hates the fact that I own seven different lights. From a mini-Mag lite to my Streamlight M3, she hates 'em all. When she has to clear the house from mutants and deviant turds, then she'll appreciate the M3 or my Surefire combat light with attached DNA sampler. I caught the light bug when I started tactical training. Now I never leave home after dark without one. I even got the guys on my deer lease to purchase Surefires. We were driving in from the field last season after hours and came across some hogs on the property. Well, since someone wanted bacon for breakfast, we lit 'em up...so to speak. They couldn't get enough light out of their mag lites and Dura-cell specials to see their crosshairs, and on the eighth day, Shooter created light. We turned night to day and were taking good shots out to 100 yards with just my Surefire combat light.

Mark@C said...

Sigh...
Old (pre-1970, at least) Coleman lanterns. Gas, pressure, fire... What's not to love?
Won't fit on your keychain, though!

Dregan said...

Hey 'Dog

Re: the Photon II LED lights - I lvoe em' too. I bought a case (100) and sold 60 to a guy runs a kind of a general store at campouts, and kept the rest for myself. Now there's one on every keychain in the family. Nuttin' but handy, these little buggers are.

You may want to look into the 1 and 3 watt LED flashlights. My 1 watt Brinks is almost on par with my Surefire G2, except for the fact that (a) it's a LOT cheaper and (b) it runs on 3 regular AA batteries. If you go camping a lot (like I do) and you don't have a place to plug in the rechargables, and don't want to pay $6 each for 123a's, it's priceless. Stop by your local Wally World, they run about $18.88.

Dregan said...

Oh, by the way, nice Pratchett reference. My soon-to-be better half point that out while I was putting my socks on this morning.

BryanP said...

Ook, I say. Ook.

As for carrying a light of some sort, absolutely. My back pocket carries cheap little Dorcy LED flashlight that uses a single AAA battery and isn't much larger than the battery itself. You can find it on the rack at your local Wally World for less than $10.

Here's someone selling it for a bit more, and you can see what they look like:
http://www.doityourself.com/invt/u563976#

A pack of matches stashed in my wallet (replaced every few months just for the heck of it), a Kershaw folder and a Gerber multitool cover an awful lot of situations.

Anonymous said...

I have a Brinkmann xenon 123 batts that is just as good as the surefire. But it is only realy useful as a wepon light because of the 1 hour burn time,and wal-mart doesnt carry them anymore so you'll need to find another dealer or order from brinkman. Also ranger joe's sells 123's for about $2 bucks each but they're still much more than AA or AAA's.

http://www.rangerjoes.com/index.php

Another cheap, sorry, inexpencive light you can go get at the wal is a colman 3 AAA bat LED that puts out 115 lumins and works well out to almost 100 yards and has a six hour run time on about $1.85 worth of batts that you can find anywhere. the beam is't as wide as the surefire, or brinkman, but is still very useful. The length is abut the same as the other two and the width is a little larger at 1.5inch